Doughnuts don't poke holes in my wallet

I've just renewed a regular relationship with doughnuts - and with doughnut shops. I'm completely serious. It's been great so far.

Maybe it's because doughnut shops have not been "in" for so long compared to other venues, and I am a rebel at heart. So being at a doughnut shop feels like I'm being true to myself.

OK, maybe the reason is not philosophical at all. Maybe it's because other forces, such as job hunting and downsizing my budget, have brought me back.

What matters most is that I am happy about it - and so is my wallet.

Let's face it, a cup of house decaf coffee and a doughnut for under $2 can't be beat. I get change back in an era where $2 won't get you very much - not even get you a gallon of gasoline.

Another thrilling aspect of doughnut shops is that my decaf is there in front of me to serve myself. My wait equals how long it takes me to pour the coffee into the styrofoam cup from the coffee pot.

So it would appear, at least on the surface, that the doughnut world also fits nicely into my recent efforts to "simplify, simplify."

Don't get me wrong. I haven't completely abandoned my complicated gastronomic relationships. There's a certain sophistication about the environments that go along with them that the doughnut world simply doesn't offer.

But now I find myself seeking out undemanding, basic, bottom-line doughnut shops. It's an in-your-face relationship. What you see is what you eat.

Well, sort of.

In my city on the West Coast, doughnut shops are few and far between, but thankfully they are obvious.

You can't miss marquee-size signs proclaiming "DONUTS," or "JOE'S DONUTS." They are easy to identify; they're like gas stations, to complete the very badly punned "gas-tronomic" comparison.

When I lived on the East Coast, doughnut shops were a part of life that we took for granted. They even insinuated themselves into tradition.

Every summer before my family and I went on the road for our two-week vacation, we would stop at the local doughnut watering hole, order a dozen doughnuts for the six of us, and then hit the highway.

Doughnuts were my family's flag of freedom, our coat of arms, our rebel cry.

Everyone I knew had a favorite doughnut, too. Right now my favorite one is what Westerners call "glazed" doughnuts - or "honey-dipped" to Easterners.

Doughnuts obviously have worked their way deep into the local vernacular. They are so flexible and user friendly, yet so steady and reliable - like old friends you haven't seen for years, but with whom you reconnect as if time had never passed.

Admittedly, my relationship with doughnuts has not always been free of complications.

I once decided to bring a couple dozen doughnuts to a Saturday morning meeting when I was a relatively new kid on the block. At the end of the meeting, there was a round of applause for the doughnuts. They were a hit - or so I thought.

Later, a friend with a knack for ironic humor, informed me that doughnuts had never been done before. The subject had caused a bit of a stir before. Doughnuts were close to "apostasy," he gleefully explained.

"No!" I gasped.

We cracked up laughing. I had to go look up the word, "apostasy" in the dictionary, so it was an educational experience, too.

I had been so naive about doughnuts! I knew then that, given the right - or wrong - venue, doughnuts had the potential of being outright revolutionary in their quiet, unassuming way.

Doughnuts are, after all, a distant cousin of the French baguette, which played a pivotal role in fomenting the French Revolution. I've lived in France. I should have made the French connection.

In case you haven't guessed, yes, I am in a doughnut shop right now. I just finished my glazed doughnut and a cup of coffee. I also asked the counter clerk if I could order a half-dozen doughnuts to go. I'd like to store them in the freezer for later.

She said that wouldn't work because doughnuts don't freeze well. That's why they make them fresh every day. (Just like French baguettes!)

So now I can justify my doughnut runs. Doughnuts are basically fresh bread, only a little on the deep-fried side and a tad sweeter, right?

On second thought, I might be getting myself into more than I bargained for.

The next time I order a doughnut to go, I have to be alert to dismiss any notions about starting a revolution on my way home. I think I can manage that.

But if you ever see someone attempting to hum "La Marseillaise" while eating a doughnut at the same time, don't be surprised. It might be a French cruller - one of my other favorite doughnuts - and it might be me!

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